Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Small World

January 9, 2014

Smallworld is a quick playing civilisation and conquest game with a light-hearted family theme.

Each player selects a combination of race and power, and uses their selection to conquer territories on the board. Each territory you hold at the end of a turn scores you one point, collect the most points to win the game.

You can only have one active race at a time, which you use to conquer territories. You can then place it into decline, to no longer conquer, but to still score points on the regions it holds. You can also have only one race in decline at a time.

The key decisions are in which race to select from the available options, and when to move on to a new race. There are always six available races, and you can pick the next one for free, or spend victory points to pick a race further down the stack.

It’s important to trade off the advantage of purchasing a more expensive combination against the benefits it’ll bring.

The next choice is when to place a race in decline, too early and you won’t get the full benefit of your selection, too late and you’ll miss out on valuable scoring opportunities.

You need to watch how your opponents are doing. If you let another race sit in decline scoring lots of points a turn, then you will quickly fall behind. Don’t be afraid to go into conflict with other players, playing a friendly game by not attacking others will only see you lose quickly.

It should take around an hour to play, turns are quick and not overly complex, so there’s little excuse for analysis paralysis or long downtimes. Definitely worth playing and adding to the collection


San Juan

July 19, 2010

San Juan is a card game similar in style and feel to Puerto Rico. It’s set in the capital city of the island, and you are given the task of creating this city.

It’s a quick game to learn, and quick to play once everyone knows the rules. Each round every player takes on a role: Prospector, Builder, Producer, Trader, Councillor. As with Puerto Rico, the roles chosen give you a benefit, cheaper buildings, more production and so on.

The game is directed around managing your hand of cards. Trading, Prospecting and the Councillor allow you to draw more cards. Building requires you to discard cards from your hand to pay for a building to be created (another card from your hand). More expensive buildings are worth more at the end of the game, but are obviously harder to build. When a player has built 12 buildings, the game ends.

There are five production buildings, corn has been replaced with silver to give a fifth producible resource. When the producer is selected, only one of your production buildings creates an item, with no shipping this limits the number of items available to sell whilst trading.

Other than the role cards, all the components are simply cards from the deck, production is represented by face down cards on your buildings, and money is cards discarded from your hand. This makes the game very portable, easy to set-up and tear down, and means it doesn’t require much space to play.

All in all, a good quick game when you’ve not got time or inclination for a full session of Puerto Rico, or if you’ve only got two players.

Dominion – Further Thoughts

May 18, 2010

I’ve played through Dominion a few more times since my original post, and have a few more thoughts to share.

I’m only using the basic set, with the original 25 action cards. Dominion – Intrigue, Seaside and Alchemy will have to wait for another time.

Big money is very strong when there are no attack cards in the set of ten you are playing with. Add in attacks, especially Witches and Thieves, and the value quickly reduces.

Witches are powerful if you are the only playing using them, they give everyone else a curse card, with -1VP, which is not only negative, but also pads out your deck, making each further draw difficult.

Cards that give further actions are good, but you need to make sure there is a decent plan to use the bonus, just chaining a lot of actions won’t help you win.

Remodel lets you change cards to new, more expensive ones, and there’s a valid strategy concentrating on this, but it’s easy to play it wrong.

Mines are useful to make your bad coin cards into much better ones.

If you are playing Big Money, then adding in a Chapel card can really help, thinning out your deck to allow quicker draws of your most valuable money cards.

Playing with random sets of ten cards is most fun, it stops you only considering your favourite cards, and avoids missing out on entertaining sets or combinations you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Don’t play with random sets for the first game (unless you are teaching experienced gamers), but be brave and use one the second time around.


April 27, 2010

Dominion is a interesting card game, from Rio Grande games.

You start the game with a very small deck of cards, consisting of money and victory points.

Your turn is two phases, one is used to take an Action, the other to buy cards to add to your deck. Once you’ve completed your turn, you discard your hand, and draw five new cards from your deck.

Each game has several types of cards available for you to add to your deck, money, victory point and action cards. Each have different costs, different values and can be more or less useful to your strategy.

There are three types of money card, Copper, Silver and Gold (these give 1,2 or 3 coins to spend on cards). There are three types of victory point cards, Estate, Duchy and Province (worth 1, 3 or 6 VPs).

There are ten types of action card available. The Dominion game contains a total of 25 types of action card, so each time you play you can use a new set, leading to a great deal of replayability.

Action cards can let you do many things, draw extra cards, take extra actions, buy more times or more expensive items, or alter your deck (remove or replace cards). It’s important to remember the aim of the game here, it’s not to collect lots of action cards or have a long turn, but to gain the greatest number of VPs.

The game ends when all Provinces have been purchased, or when three stacks of action cards are empty. Each player then counts their victory points, and the player with the highest total wins.

The simplest decent strategy is known as ‘Big Money’. Buy a Province if you can afford it, otherwise buy Gold, otherwise buy Silver. This gets lots of VPs very quickly, and can easily win if other players are too absorbed in gathering action cards.

It’s not the best strategy, but you need to make sure that whatever you plan on using can beat it, otherwise you’ll lose to a Big Money player.

Dominion is for 2-4 players, it’s great fun, easy to teach and quite quick to play. You can easily play several games in an evening, or fit it around a longer game to fill an hour or so. There are a number of expansions that add new cards, so it should stay fresh for a good long while.


March 22, 2010

Citadels is a card game for 2-7 players. Players take turns to select roles and build their city. The first player to build eight districts wins.

Each of the roles has a different ability, from the assassin able to ‘kill’ another character and prevent them taking their turn, to the warlord able to pay to destroy a district belonging to another player.

The roles are numbered 1-8, selected secretly and then played in order. With fewer players not all roles are taken, so some special moves can be wasted. The bluff and counter bluff of role selection leads to a lot of the game’s fun.

The districts all cost a certain amount of gold to buy, and are worth this many points at game end. The first player to complete eight districts gets a bonus, and if any other player completes before game end then they get a slightly smaller bonus. You also score more points if you complete one district of each type.

This is a quick and fun game, it plays interestingly with 2 players, and is probably best with 4-5. Nice to fill in a spare half hour to hour around the main game of the evening

Lost Cities – the board game

March 15, 2010

Lost Cities is a board game designed by Reiner Knizia and published by Rio Grande Games.

Players compete to explore one of five lost cities, moving along a track by playing numbered cards to get closer to the goal. The closer you get, the more points you score.

It’s a nice quick game, easy to learn and fast to play. It’s possible to play with either three rounds or one, and a one round game is a good way to finish an evening when there’s not enough time to play a longer game, or a good way to start when waiting for a tardy player.

There are 110 cards, with two sets numbered 0 to 10 in each colour. To take a step along a path you play one card, and then to take another step you must play a card of the same value or higher.

Turns are quick, either playing a card or discarding, then drawing to refill your hand.

As you move along the tracks there are certain bonus tiles, either extra points, free moves or artefacts (worth points at the end of the game). The bonus tiles are randomly dealt at the start of the game, and great attention needs to be taken of them to ensure victory.

You have five playing pieces to move along the tracks, one is larger than the others, and worth double points. It’s important to send this piece along your best scoring track, to maximise its value. A piece that only moves a couple of spaces will lose points, so don’t start along a track unless you are sure it is possible to move a fair way along it.

The game finishes when all cards are used, or when five pieces have crossed a bridge (about 2/3 along a path). Then each player scores their points, and a winner is declared.

This is a fun game to fill a spare half hour / hour. It’s unlikely to hold up to many repeated plays, and it’s not going to replace your favourite game any time soon.

Ticket to Ride

January 4, 2010

Ticket to Ride is a game for 2-5 players. You compete to collect sets of matching coloured cards, which you use to claim routes on the board, linking up cities to score points. You score bonus points by connecting certain routes (determined by destination tickets) or by having the longest route at the end of the game.

It’s a simple game to learn, with only three possible actions in a turn it’s very quick to explain. It’s quite quick to play as well, each turn is only a few seconds long, with only the very rare turn taking a minute or more to play. As such, it’s a great introduction to gaming , and something that people who don’t think of themselves as gamers could probably be induced to play without great hassle.

It works well with only two players, something that many games fail with, but I feel the best number of players is 4-5. With only two players then it can be quite easy to complete your Destination Tickets, with more players it’s quite a lot harder.

Longer routes are worth more points, but are harder to complete. Certain routes can be claimed by sets of any colour, and some require specific colours. Locomotive cards act as jokers, making it easier to complete these long routes. You need to complete a number of the longer routes (five and six in length) to be in with a chance of winning.

In addition to claiming long routes, completing Destination Tickets is key to winning the game. If you fail to complete a ticket, it costs that many points from your final total. Some tickets are worth more than 20 points, the difference between completing on not is the same as scoring several long routes on the board.

There are a number of expansions and follow on games, Ticket to Ride: Europe is the most popular, ranking 47th on board game geek’s list of games. It adds ferries (require locomotive in the set of cards claiming the route), tunnel (harder routes to complete) and stations (allow you to count routes not yours to complete tickets). This evolution of the game appears to add some interesting new rules, which I’ll probably pick up at some point, to see how much of a difference they make.


January 2, 2009

Android is a new game from Fantasy Flight Games, makers of Twilight Imperium.

It’s a science fiction detective game, players take the roles of various investigative characters, and attempt to solve a murder by moving around the Earth and Moon, following up leads and placing evidence on the various suspects.

A game lasts for twelve turns (days) and each day a detective has a certain number of points (time) to spend on various actions. At the end of the game, the player who has accrued the most victory points wins.

You gain victory points by solving the murder (placing enough evidence to convict the suspect you believe is guilty), taking actions at various points of the board, uncovering a deeper conspiracy, or completing your own personal plots.

It’s a complex game, each player has their own character, with unique special rules. Rules change as the game progresses, so different actions are more or less valuable at different times. It is difficult to set up and start playing, but once the game begins and a few turns have been played it gets a lot easier. The game suggests somewhere between 2-4 hours to play, and our first game took nearly twice that.

The art work is good, and the rules are well laid out, with lots of examples. The playing pieces are all sturdy and well made, except for the strategy sheets (that give you hints on how to play your character), these are very flimsy.

As there are many ways to score points, and the ways to score change over the game, it can be hard to be sure who is winning at any given point. This is good as it means there is rarely a clear leader to pick up the hate from the other players.

Each detective has a deck of light cards, and a deck of dark. Light cards are played on you by you, to gain an advantage. Dark cards are played on you by other players, and hinder you. Each card costs a certyain number of points to play, but playing a dark card reduces the number of dark points you can use, until you play a light card, and vice-versa. This encourages you to play both light and dark cards, and playing dark cards on other players can drive a lot of interaction as the game progresses.

In all, a good game if you have a day to devote to it, or a long evening if all players know the rules, and don’t suffer too badly from analysis paralysis.

Christmas game giving

December 22, 2008

If you find yourself looking for a last minute gift, and are willing to brave the local gaming store and its patrons for your purchase, then I’ve got a quick list of my top five board games, all of which I’ve written about before, and all of which should be easy to acquire at short notice:

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. Settlers of Catan
  3. Carcassonne
  4. Ticket to Ride
  5. Twilight Imperium

A word of warning, if you are looking for a game that everyone will enjoy, then maybe consider a Classic Boardgame instead of one of these more modern affairs, as I think it’s more likely to get interest from everyone in the family if it’s a game they’ve all played before, even if only at Christmases past.

Dungeons and Dragons 4: The Dungeon Master’s Guide

October 26, 2008

The Dungeon Master’s Guide is split into 11 chapters, staring with how to be a DM and running the game, running through the types of encounters, adventures, rewards and campaigns, and finishing up with world building, NPC building, and an example town and adventure.

It’s all pretty similar to what we saw in Third Edition, but as with the Player’s Handbook we lose a lot of the randomness (describing towns rather than tables to create them), and focus more on the nuts and bolts of running a combat game.

The Prestige classes and NPC classes have gone, but there’s a section on designing NPCs in the DM’s toolbox towards the end of the book. There are a lot fewer magic items, only the Artifacts remain, the rest have moved to the Player’s handbook.

The book is a lot easier to read, and easier to find things in, but that may just be because you are searching out obscure tables less often.

In all, it’s a nice evolution of the game, but it’s not a massive shift. The game has become easier to run, but the core books are holding your hand less as a DM, you’l either have to work harder to build your world, or rely more on published sources.